Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ford Motor Company Looks Toward Autonomous Vehicle Fleets By 2021

The Ford Motor Company has announced that they are looking to begin mass producing fully autonomous cars for fleet hire services by early 2021.

The image shows a white car parked on a driveway beside a large house . The driveway is backed by large green trees and shrubs. Photo Ford Motor Company
On August 16, 2016 Ford Motor Company announced intent to mass produce fully autonomous vehicles by early 2021 (Photo Ford Motor Company)

 On August 16, 2016, Mark Fields, CEO of the Ford Motor Company announced that Ford intends to be mass producing fully autonomous vehicles by early 2021.

Over recent years there has been much excitement at the idea of fully autonomous vehicles, sometimes called "Google cars" because of the innovations created by the Technology giant, Google.

Mark Fields said in his announcement that Ford has been a leader in innovation in the motor industry since the early twentieth century and has decided that now is the time to see fully autonomous vehicles as a real prospect.

Previously, Ford had looked at moving forward with small steps where vehicles remained under the full control of a human driver who would be assisted by computers and other computer management systems. This will possibly continue, because there is and still will be a huge market for car drivers who want to drive their own vehicle.

Fields added that Ford is at a point where they see the removal of a steering wheel and pedals for gas and brakes are possible and that they will seek to follow this route as a driverless alternative.

In the near future, Fields suggested by early 2021, these fully driverless autonomous cars could be on the roads of the United States.

What's In It For Us?

So what could this mean for the blind and visually impaired? At present, for good reasons of public safety, we are not allowed to drive on public roads. But will the autonomous car deliver mobility and freedom for us as visually impaired consumers.

Currently we are tied to a friend or relative driving us to our destination. Or we use buses and disabled transit systems. Alternatively we can use taxis and ride share services such as Uber. But for those of us who use guide dogs, taxis  and ride sharing services have become a problem as drivers refuse, illegally, to take us with our dogs to our destinations.

If legislators agree to  create laws that allow the computer within the vehicle to become a legal responsible entity, allowed to drive people who do not have a driving license then this will open the gates for us to use these vehicles.

Initially these vehicles will be produced for fleet services and hire companies. They could even become part of a ride share fleet, Uber style, but with no driver to refuse to take a guide dog.



Uber Drivers to go the Way of the Pony Express Rider?

So in this scenario maybe the Uber driver is like the famed Pony Express rider, a good opportunity for the short term but doomed when technology comes along, here in the form of a self driving car rather than the overland telegraph and railroads.

The car could be hired rather than owned by an individual, it would arrive at your door at an appointed time, pick you up the drop you off at your destination, or possibly if you are on a very long journey take you to a staging post where you might change vehicles or it is refuelled.

I can imagine taking one of these cars up to a BART station in the Bay area, getting out to catch a train then the car goes on its merry way as I might go into work through the day. Then I could catch a train to a departure station and have another car drive me home. On the way to and from work I could sleep, work on a computer, make telephone calls or eat a meal, as carefully as I can, the roads will still have bumps and pot holes. Maybe a car would be cleaned and valetted after every use or at least once a day.

2021 could be just a date that slips by, but I am pretty sure fully autonomous cars will be with us, sometime. We will use them daily and I am sure they will change the lives of many blind, visually impaired and non drivers for the better.

 To read the full press release  follow this link:  .Ford Motor Company Announcement of moving towards fully autonomous vehicles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Working on other Productions at CMAC

the CMAC building in downtown Fresno Ca. Used to be the office of the Fresno Bee Newspaper.
CMAC Studio- Former Fresno Bee Office
I don't spend all of my time at CMAC (Community Media Access Collaborative ) in downtown Fresno, just working on my own projects.

Though it is fun to create my own programs, the most fun comes from collaborating with other producers and members on creating their programs.

I spend about eight hours per week these days at the CMAC studio. Most of that time is spent working on programs that are not my own. I may only spend about ten hours per month at CMAC working on my own projects, that is divided between editing and recording 'Blindside Fresno' or any specials that I am working on.

One of my most regular volunteer jobs is to work on CMAC 'n' Live.

CMAC 'n' Live is a music show recorded on Monday evenings at two week intervals. I have worked on several of the shows since January, my latest collaboration was last Monday.

The show is actually two shows, the first part is rather like a rehearsal, but recorded. Artists perform their material, mostly songs. Then at 7pm the program actually goes live on air. This is old style television in the raw and very exciting for everyone. We try our best to minimize mistakes, which occassionally do creep in, but look at an old recording of a live show from the sixties, sets wobbled, actors forgot their lines and cameras appeared on screen along with the sometimes comical appearance of "Mike" on the jib. We rarely have too many problems outside a performer yawning on a close-up or a camera going live in the middle of a crytical  focus.

This week the shows guests were a local Bluegrass Band called 'Kornbred'. Here is a link to the show I hope that you might like to listen and share the link.


Bluegrass Collections on


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Blindside Fresno' An Interview with Nathan Romo, President of California Council of the Blind Fresno

The second program of the 'Blindside Fresno' series is now available to view on my YouTube Channel. This program was first broadcast on Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC) in the Fresno/Clovis area at 7pm on August 16, 2016.

Viewed from behind the cameras we see Nathan Romo sat to the left and Darcie Elliott on the right during the recording of 'Blindside Fresno'
In the Studio Program 2 'Blindside Fresno'
The guest on this program is Nathan Romo, current president of the California Council of the Blind chapter in Fresno, California.

In the program he talks about his life with blindness, some of the technology that he finds useful and also his vision for CCB in the Fresno area. Over recent years the local chapter has organized a series of fund raisers and has distributed gifts to organizations such as the Junior Blind Olympics, Blind Babies and supported a local student by providing a prize of an Apple iPad as a prize for winning a chapter sponsored essay writing contest.

The chapter is currently planning a future fund raiser for the Fall, the profits from which will be assigned to local blind and visually impaired causes.

See Program 2 'Blindside Fresno' Here:

Chess Revisited

When I was young at Secondary School, the British equivelent to High School in the United States, I was a chess player. I was not a great player but was regularly on the school chess team.

Pawn, Rook or Castle, knight, bishop, queen and king from a classic Staunton competition style chess set.
A Staunton Chess Set

I also played on and off throughout my early adulthood, owning one of the early chess computers which looked more like a clunky pocket calculator and had a display which told me the letter and number of the squares to move a piece. I got so good at using that chess computer I could even play and sometimes win without even using a board.

When I lost most of my vision about six years ago, I gave up playing chess, I never thought I would play again. Sad but not surprising. But then my wife spotted thisTravel Chess Set for the Blind and Visually Impaired on amazon.

I was excited to receive this little chess set. It seems a little fragile at first but the pieces are robust and the board is clearly divided for blind and low vision players.

I can play at my hearts content and I am finding new excitement for a game I once played as a young man.

Take a look at this nice little chess board and other chess boards on amazon. You may find yourself a nice hobby.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Going to the Movies

In 2013 I wrote about going to the movies and using audio description facilities provided in many modern cinemas. To read that  post follow this link To read Movies 2013

all set up for a shoot in the studio and behind a camera.
In the studio
I do go to the cinema pretty regularly. Leif, my guide dog loves the movies too but mainly for the dropped popcorn on the floor rather than the artistic quality of cinematography.

It is an escape for me. I can go and get involved in a story. My one problem though is still that  I can never be assured that the person in customer service knows how to set up the audio description headset. Time and time again over the last three years I have had this conversation.

Me: Can I have the audio description headset please.

Customer Service: Sure. Closed caption?

Me: No. The audio description tells me what is happening on the screen.

Customer Service: So you can read the words on the screen?

Me: No. That's the wrong setting. I am blind.

Customer Service: I see. OK. Well this should be the right setting.

With this they hand me a little black box hardly bigger than a pack of chewing gum and Leif and I wander off to the screen. I am wondering if the conversation worked and the person in Customer Service actually did set things up right.

Three years ago I would have to wait until the movie started to find out. Get it right and I was in heaven. Get it wrong and I had the dilema of whether to trudge back to customer service and go through all the script again, or just sit out the movie, complain and get a free ticket for my next movie. I often just opted for the later.

Now, thanks to audio described advertisements I sometimes get to find out before the movie. Of course I never really know if the ad was audio described until the movie has started and I have no audio description. But audio described ads shorten my anxiety no end.

It is interesting that it is advertisers who have made this move to audio description. Movie trailers are not audio described. But the add to let me know that concessions in the foyer have Coca Cola is. Of course the aim is now to make me trudge back to the concessions in the foyer to buy a coke, I am not going to do that with a popcorn stuffing guide dog weaving down the hall too soon.

But my relief at now pretty well knowing if I am going to have a free movie ticket in my pocket as I go home  means that I can enjoy the movie in peace.

Until the person behind me starts dropping their popcorn over the floor, that is.